Chapter 4: The Legal Requirements of Boating
Requirements Specific to Personal Watercraft (PWCs)
Tennessee law defines a PWC as “a mechanically propelled vessel that is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling on the vessel rather than being operated in a conventional manner by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling inside the vessel.” In addition to adhering to all boating laws, PWC operators have requirements specific to their watercraft.
- Everyone on board a PWC must wear a U.S.
Coast Guard-approved Type I, II,
or III life jacket, called a personal flotation device
(PFD), at all times. Inflatable PFDs are not approved for use on personal watercraft.
- There are age and education requirements for operators of personal watercraft. See Who
May Operate a Vessel.
- PWCs must be equipped with an ignition safety switch, and the operator must attach the lanyard of the switch to his or her wrist or PFD.
- PWCs may be operated only during daylight hours (between sunrise and sunset).
- PWCs must be operated in a safe and responsible manner. It is illegal to:
- Jump the immediate wake (within 100 feet) of another vessel.
- Weave your PWC through congested waterway traffic.
- Steer toward another object or person in the water and swerve at the last possible moment in order to avoid collision or spray others nearby.
- Operate the PWC close to boat ramps, docks, or the shoreline at more than idle speed.
- Chase, harass, or disturb wildlife with your PWC.
Towing a Person With a Vessel Legally
Vessel operators towing a person(s) on water skis, a surfboard, or any other device must obey these laws.
- It is illegal for vessels to tow persons on water skis, a surfboard, or any other device between sunset and sunrise or during inclement weather.
- The towing vessel must be able to observe the towed person(s). The towing vessel must have either:
- A person at least 12 years old, in addition to the boat operator, on board observing the towed person(s) or …
- The required number of wide-angle (170-degree field of vision) rearview mirror(s).
- If the towing vessel is a PWC, the PWC must be equipped with two wide-angle rearview mirrors.
- If the towing vessel is a boat (other than a PWC), the boat must be equipped with at least one wide-angle rearview mirror.
- All persons being towed behind a vessel on water skis or any other device must wear an adequate and effective life preserver, buoyant vest, or life belt. If the device worn by the skier is not U.S. Coast Guard–approved, an approved life jacket (PFD) must be on board the towing vessel.
- The operator of the towing vessel and the skier must not operate in a manner that endangers the safety of persons or property. A safe speed and distance from other vessels, persons in the water, docks, piers, and shorelines must be maintained.